Nanomechanical and nanotribological testing of ultra-thin carbon-based and MoST films for increased MEMS durability

B.D. Beake, S.R. Goodes, B. Shi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Reliability of MEM (microelectromechanical) devices can be limited by stiction forces that develop in use. It is desirable to alter the mechanical and interfacial behaviour of the silicon surfaces by the application of very thin, low surface energy and low stress coatings. In this publication we report the nanomechanical and nanotribological characterization of a range of 5-150 nm thin films deposited on silicon by filtered cathodic vacuum arc (FCVA) and closed field unbalanced magnetron sputtering. A method of analysing nano-scratch data with spherical indenters is proposed. The method suggests the onset of non-elastic deformation in the nano-scratch test is due to substrate yield rather than film deformation on all but the softest films studied in this publication. The critical load for total film failure is a marked function of indenter radius, the ratio of hardness to modulus and the film thickness. The FCVA films were tested with probes of different radii (1.1, 3.1 and 9.0 νm) and the critical load for film failure was found to vary strongly with probe radius. The deposition of <100 nm amorphous carbon films on Si could be a promising strategy for improving the reliability of Si-based MEMS devices as none of the very thin films tested underwent stress-related delamination failures that occur behind the indenter during the nano-scratch testing of thicker amorphous carbon films.

Original languageEnglish
Article number065301
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Physics D
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2009


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